Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953

cd_cantors.jpgClassic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection (Living Traditions/JSP)

They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you cry, but most of all they’ll deepen your appreciation for the richness of Jewish culture and the wonders of recording technology. "They" in this case being the 67 musical and literary recordings now available on Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners: 1905-1953: Classic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection, a three-CD box set recently released by Living Traditions and JSP Records.

There’s something for nearly everyone in this set, chosen from the over 5,000 discs in the Mayrent Collection, the largest private collection of Jewish 78s in the world. Well-known performers include Molly Picon ("Katinka"), Fyvush Finkel ("Ich Bin a Boarder Ba Mein Weib"), Maurice Schwartz ("Histendiger Chazen"), Belle Baker ("Duvid Hamelech’s Fidel") and Sophie Tucker ("My Yiddische Momme," the most successful Yiddish song written for a mainstream audience).

But the set also includes some notable rarities (42 of the selections are reissued here for the first time), including the only known recording of Sholom Aleichem reading from his works, a recording of "Eli, Eli" by Frances Simonoff from 1910 (making it the oldest known recording of the most recorded Jewish song of all time), and the only known recording of the klezmer clarinetist Sam Finkle ("Tantzen Zol Zein Getanzt"). There are instrumental selections, comedy routines, cantorial recordings — in short, a great representation of the breadth of Yiddish culture in the first half of the 20th century.

Grammy Award-winning producer Chris King remastered the recordings and he did an amazing job in making them sound fresh and clear, with a full dynamic range and without the pops and hisses familiar from less careful transfers. The CD set also includes a 78-page illustrated booklet containing an historical essay by collector Sherry Mayrent and notes and translations for each selection by Henry Sapoznik, author of Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World.

If you know klezmer music only from modern groups like the Klezmer Conservatory Band or the PBS Special In the Fiddler’s House featuring Itzhak Perlman, then you owe it to yourself to check out the roots of this music. Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners offers an easy way to get started if you’re fairly new to the music, and offers a number of rare selections which will interest even people who know it well. It’s also a great collection for people with a more general interest in Jewish culture. You can read more about Living Traditions and this CD at A | Sarah Boslaugh

RIYL: From Avenue A to the Great White Way; Music from the Yiddish Radio Project; Jews with Horns


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